The fintech industry saw more pain in 2023, with overall investment falling by half as higher interest rates and worsening macroeconomic conditions caused investors to tighten their belts, according to global investment figures shared exclusively with CNBC.
The data from Innovate Finance, a financial technology industry body, shows that investment in fintechs last year sank $51.2 billion, down 48% from 2022 when total investment in the sector totaled $99 billion. The total number of fintech fundraising deals also sank considerably, to 3,973 in 2023 from 6,397 in 2022 — a 61% drop.
Still, despite that drop, there was one standout performer on Innovate Finance’s list when it came to funding: the United Arab Emirates. According to Innovate Finance, the UAE saw total investment soar 92% in 2023, thanks in part to more fintech-friendly regulations, and as adoption of digital banking and other tools expanded in the region.
That marks the first time the UAE has made it to the top 10 list of most well-funded fintech hubs in 2023, according to Innovate Finance. There were more Asian and Middle East countries in the top 10 last year than there were European nations, the group noted, as some major European economies slipped down the table, such as France and Germany.
“Some of the markets now adopting this technology, we’re seeing that reflected in investment numbers,” Innovate Finance CEO Janine Hirt told CNBC earlier this week. Hirt noted that the momentum in Asia and the Middle East offered an opportunity for the U.K. to boost cooperation and partnerships with countries in those regions. “We are seeing appetite and real momentum coming from a lot of hubs in Asia,” she said.
On the slowdown, Hirt noted that growth-stage companies were the most likely to be affected by the downturn in funding in 2023, whereas seed-stage and early-stage firms were more immune to those pressures.
“If you’re a later-stage company, you might not be going out for a raise right now,” Innovate Finance’s CEO said, adding that early-stage fintechs had a better time in the market last year raising about $4 billion. “That’s a really positive sign,” she added.
“What is a testament to the strength of our sector is that deal sizes are very, very healthy,” Hirt said. “Globally, and in the U.K., investment in seed, Series A and B fintechs has normalized, which is a testament to the strength of investors,” she added.
Financial technology has had its share of gloom over the past 12 months, amid intensifying conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and Israel and Hamas, ongoing geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China, and broader uncertainties affecting financial markets, such as higher interest rates.
According to the International Monetary Fund, global economic growth is expected to slow to 3% in 2023 from 3.5% in 2022.
UK comes second to U.S.
Innovate Finance also noted that the U.K. was the second-biggest hub for fintech investment in 2023, with total funding for the country’s financial technology industry totaling $5.1 billion in 2023, down 63% from $13.9 billion in 2022.
The U.K. received more investment in fintech than the next 28 European countries combined, according to Innovate Finance.
London fintechs pulled in $4.5 billion last year, with the city continuing to dominate when it comes to fintech funding in Europe more broadly.
However, the U.K.’s capital saw overall funding drop, too — down 56% from 2022.
Meanwhile, female-led fintechs in the U.K. bagged 59 deals year worth a combined $536 million, according to Innovate Finance, accounting for 10.5% of the U.K. total, which the organization called a “step forward” for women founders and leaders.
“I think, ultimately, the U.K. is still very much a global leader in fintech,” Hirt told CNBC. It’s the European leader.”
But, she added, “We can’t afford to rest on our laurels. It’s critical to build on the momentum we’ve had over the past few years. We need government support and regulation that is effective and efficient and proactive.”
“For us, a focus going forward is making sure we do have proper regulation in place that allows fintechs to thrive, and allows SMEs [small to medium-sized enterprises] across the country to benefit from these new innovations as well.”
“Cracking on with new regimes for stablecoins, regimes for crypto, open banking and finance — these are all areas we’re hopeful we’ll see progress in in 2024.”
The United States, unsurprisingly, was the biggest country for fintech investment, with total investment coming in at $24 billion, although funding levels remained down from 2022 as fintech firms raised 44% less in 2023 than they did a year ago.
India came in third after the U.K., with the country seeing fintech investment worth $2.5 billion last year, while Singapore was fourth with $2.2 billion of funding, and China was fifth on $1.8 billion.
The value of the top five biggest deals globally in 2023 was over $9 billion, or about 18% of total global investment in the space.
Stripe pulled in the most amount of cash raising $6.9 billion, according to the data, while Rapyd, Xpansiv, BharatPe, and Ledger won the second, third, fourth, and fifth-biggest investment deals, respectively.
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Expressions of Interest for Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
The Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath, is inviting Expressions of Interest from suitably qualified candidates to be considered as Ireland’s Director of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The remunerated position of Director is an important post with a demanding workload. A full-time residential position, it is based at Bank headquarters in London.
The Minister’s nominee is expected to be appointed by the EBRD, with the agreement of Ireland’s Constituency partner countries, for a three-year term from 1 August 2024.
Minister McGrath commented:
“This is an exciting opportunity to represent Ireland (and our Constituency partners Denmark, Lithuania and Kosovo) as a Director on the Board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development overseeing the policy-making and governance of the Bank. The EBRD is a unique International Financial Institution supporting projects across three continents. By investing in projects which otherwise would not be fully met by the market, the EBRD promotes entrepreneurship and fosters transition towards open and sustainable market economies. I am keen to ensure our Irish representative has the ability, education, vision, and experience to make a significant contribution to the Board and brings a range of skills and diverse perspective to the deliberations of the Board.
My nominee will need high competence in economic and financial matters. Expertise can come from notable or significant achievements in the corporate or financial sector, academia, policy-focused institutions, or public service. Importantly, they will have the highest ethical standards, a strong sense of professionalism and commitment, and dedication to serving the interests of all the shareholders and be able to make themself readily available to the Board in the fulfilment of their duties.”
Expressions of interest will be accepted up to 3pm on 27th March 2024
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Council adopts regulation on instant payments
The Council adopted today a regulation that will make instant payments fully available in euro to consumers and businesses in the EU and in EEA countries.
The new rules will improve the strategic autonomy of the European economic and financial sector as they will help reduce any excessive reliance on third-country financial institutions and infrastructures. Improving the possibilities to mobilize cash-flows will bring benefits for citizens and companies and allow for innovative added value services.
The instant payments regulation will allow people to transfer money within ten seconds at any time of the day, including outside business hours, not only within the same country but also to another EU member state. The regulation takes into consideration particularities of non-euro area entities.
Payment service providers such as banks, which provide standard credit transfers in euro, will be required to offer the service of sending and receiving instant payments in euro. The charges that apply (if any) must not be higher than the charges that apply for standard credit transfers.
The new rules will come into force after a transition period that will be faster in the euro area and longer in the non-euro area, that needs more time to adjust.
The regulation grants access for payment and e-money institutions (PIEMIs) to payment systems, by changing the settlement finality Directive (SFD). As a result, these entities will be covered by the obligation to offer the service of sending and receiving instant credit transfers, after a transitional period. The regulation includes appropriate safeguards to ensure that the access of PIEMIs to payment systems doesn’t carry additional risk to the system.
Under the new rules, instant payment providers will need to verify that the beneficiary’s IBAN and name match in order to alert the payer to possible mistakes or fraud before a transaction is made. This requirement will apply to regular transfers too.
The regulation includes a review clause with a requirement for the Commission to present a report containing an evaluation of the development of credit charges.
This initiative comes in the context of the completion of the capital markets union. The capital markets union is the EU’s initiative to create a truly single market for capital across the EU. It aims to get investment and savings flowing across all member states for the benefit of citizens, businesses, and investors.
On 26 October 2022 the Commission put forward a proposal on instant payments that amends and modernises the single euro payments area (SEPA) regulation of 2012 on standard credit transfers in euro by adding to it specific provisions for instant credit transfers in euro.
Source: European Council
FCA highlights need for enhanced competition in wholesale data markets
The FCA has unveiled the outcomes of its in-depth study into the wholesale data market, focusing on the sectors of credit ratings data, benchmarks, and market data vendor services.
Despite deciding against major regulatory actions due to the risk of unintended consequences that could affect the data’s availability and quality—a crucial resource for global investors—the FCA has pinpointed several areas where competition could be significantly improved.
The study’s revelations indicate that the current state of competition in these markets may lead to users incurring higher costs for data than would be the case in a more competitive environment. This concern is particularly pressing given the critical role that such data plays in supporting effective investment decisions across the financial sector.
In a move to address these findings, the FCA has proposed initiatives aimed at ensuring wholesale data is distributed under fair, reasonable, and transparent conditions. This approach forms a part of the regulator’s broader strategy to ‘repeal and replace’ assimilated EU law, reinforcing the UK’s status as a premier global financial hub fostering investment, innovation, and sustainable growth.
Sheldon Mills, the FCA’s Executive Director of Consumers and Competition, emphasised the importance of quality and accessible wholesale data for the efficiency of financial markets. “The quality and availability of wholesale data is integral to well-functioning wholesale financial markets,” Mills stated. He further clarified, “Our market study found that firms can access the data they need to make effective investment decisions. We do not believe the case has been made for significant interventions. However, we will examine ways to help support wholesale data being provided on fair, reasonable and transparent terms.”
In its commitment to fostering a competitive and fair marketplace, the FCA will continue to scrutinize allegations of anti-competitive behavior across all markets, including wholesale data markets, leveraging its powers under the Competition Act to address any such issues.
Source: Fintech Global
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